May 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Matias Grez, Jeevan Ravindran, Ed Upright and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 21, 2022
22 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:44 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

Germany will deliver first 15 anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine in July, defense ministry spokesperson says 

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

Germany will deliver the first 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine in July, a German defense ministry spokesperson confirmed Friday, adding that the tanks should be fully operational in Ukraine by mid-July.  

At the end of April, Germany agreed to deliver anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine. And in early May, Berlin said it will supply Kyiv with seven self-propelled howitzers.  

Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed Germany's announcement, saying that Berlin has now moved into ''the right direction” following tensions between Kyiv and Berlin.  

Over the past months, the German government has come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing more in providing heavy military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attacks.  

11:57 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

Germany signs energy partnership with Qatar to distance itself from Russian gas

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Qatari Minister of State for Energy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi shakes hands with German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck after they signed a new energy partnership between their countries on Friday.
Qatari Minister of State for Energy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi shakes hands with German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck after they signed a new energy partnership between their countries on Friday. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Germany and Qatar on Friday agreed on an energy partnership, which may see Doha start supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Berlin in 2024.

Qatar will become key to Germany's future energy strategy to diversify away from Russian gas, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, addressing a joint press conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Berlin.

"The energy security issue plays an important role for us. Germany will develop its infrastructure to be in a position to import liquefied gas by ship," Scholz said. 

"It's a big step, and Qatar plays an important role in our strategy,'' the German leader added.

The Qatari emir told journalists at the news conference that he hopes his country will commence to supply liquefied natural gas to Germany in 2024.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shake hands after a joint press conference in Berlin on Friday.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shake hands after a joint press conference in Berlin on Friday. (Michael Sohn/AP)

Some background: Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe to make progress in weaning itself off Russian energy supplies since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Germany started construction works for its first floating LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, a city and port located in Lower Saxony in northwestern Germany.

10:33 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

France announces its first medical evacuation flight for wounded Ukrainians and child cancer patients 

From CNN's Dalal Mawad in Paris 

France announced on Friday that it launched its first medical evacuation flight from Poland for wounded Ukrainians and child cancer patients. 

In a statement, the French foreign ministry said the flight today evacuated seven Ukrainians wounded in the war, plus three Ukrainian children with cancer and their caregivers. 

The patients will be treated at the expense of France in various hospitals across the country, according to the statement.  

“France remains committed to supporting Ukraine and the populations affected by the consequences of the Russian aggression,” the ministry said.  

9:38 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

G7 pledges nearly $20 billion to support Ukraine's finances during Russian invasion

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London

Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, speaks virtually at the meeting of G7 Finance Ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, on May 19.
Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, speaks virtually at the meeting of G7 Finance Ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, on May 19. (Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty Images)

The finance ministers of Group of Seven (G7) nations have pledged $19.8 billion to support Ukraine’s finances during Russia’s invasion, a statement from the group said on Friday.

In the statement, the G7, an organization of leaders from some of the world's largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US, said the funds will be used to help Ukraine "close its financing gap and continue ensuring the delivery of basic services to the Ukrainian people.”

“While also addressing Ukraine’s humanitarian and other material needs, we recognize, in particular, Ukraine’s urgent short term financing needs,” the statement said, adding that the proposed fund of $19.8 billion is “in addition to recent announcements on further military and humanitarian support.”

“We will continue to stand by Ukraine throughout this war and beyond and are prepared to do more as needed,” the group said.

8:36 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russia's war on Ukraine has now entered its 13th week. In the otherwise Russian-occupied city of Mariupol the final holdout of the Azovstal steel plant has become a strong symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Today, an order has been given to stop defending the city, according to the commander of the Azov Regiment inside Azovstal.

Meanwhile, there are "many dead" after a Russian missile strike near Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accused Russia of trying to "kill as many Ukrainians as possible."

Here are today's latest developments:

Order given to stop defending Mariupol: The commander of the Azov Regiment, Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko, issued a video message from inside Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant saying that the top military leadership had "issued an order to preserve the garrison soldiers' life and health and stop defending the city." Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered from the plant. CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

Donbas "completely destroyed": Zelensky said there are “constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine, and the Donbas is completely destroyed." In the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv on Thursday, Russian missiles hit the village of Desna leaving many dead, Zelensky said. Desna is 40 miles from the border with Belarus.

12 dead in Luhansk: Ukrainian military officials say 12 people were killed in the eastern Luhansk region in the city of Severodonetsk, and 60 properties destroyed by Russian bombardments on Thursday. But they note that Russian forces do not appear to have made any headway on the main front lines in Luhansk and Donetsk in the past day. 

Russian soldier's trial adjourned: The trial of 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin was adjourned until Monday after a third day of hearings in his trial for war crimes. Shishimarin pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy region on the fourth day of the war, and said "I'm sorry and sincerely repent."

Mammoth US aid bill: US President Joe Biden will sign a $40 billion emergency aid package to Ukraine into law while he is in South Korea, an official says. The package was approved by the US Senate on Thursday. The Biden administration also announced another $100 million security package for Ukraine. 

Food export crisis: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he discussed ways to "unblock" Ukrainian food exports with his UK counterpart, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. The blockade on Ukrainian exports was also discussed by Zelensky and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a call Thursday. A failure to open closed ports in Ukraine to ship grain out will bring millions of people to the brink of starvation, according to the World Food Programme.

Biden offers "strong support" for NATO bids: The leaders of Sweden and Finland met with Biden at the White House after they submitted their NATO membership applications on Wednesday. The Biden administration will submit reports to the US Congress on the applications. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again maintained that his country “will say no" to the entry.

7:53 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

US intel is skeptical that Putin will be swayed by Russian public opinion over Ukraine war

By CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb

US intelligence officials are skeptical that any change in Russian public opinion against the Kremlin's war in Ukraine -- even a dramatic one -- would have an effect in persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict, according to multiple sources familiar with the latest intelligence.

Officials also doubt that the war, which many strategists believe has been an unmitigated disaster for Russia's military, is likely to lead to the removal of Putin from power, at least in the short term.

That assessment reflects the extent to which officials believe Putin has cemented his control over Russia during his more than two decades in power.

Putin is intimately involved in the day-to-day management of the conflict, according to three sources familiar with US and western intelligence, who told CNN that Putin directly participates in decision-making that in most Western armies would be reserved for lower-ranking officers.

"He clearly is his own decision maker. He doesn't seem to rely even on experts within the government or the cabinet very much," said a senior NATO official.

So it's a bit hard to imagine that popular opinion sways him all that much."

Full coverage here:

7:39 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

Finnish gas firm Gasum says Russia will cut off natural gas supplies to Finland on Saturday  

From CNN's Chris Liakos in London

Pipes at the Gasum plant in Raikkola, Imatra, Finland, on May 12.
Pipes at the Gasum plant in Raikkola, Imatra, Finland, on May 12. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland's main gas company, Gasum, said on Friday that Russian gas supplies to Finland will be cut off on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET).    

Starting Saturday and during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources, the state-owned firm said in a press release.  

“It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted," Gasum’s CEO Mika Wiljanen said, noting that the company has been "carefully preparing for this situation."    

Wiljanen went on to say that "provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months."    

Gasum Vice President Olga Väisänen told CNN on Friday that Finland is also receiving gas through its Balticconnector pipeline via Estonia, but adding that the winter season will be “challenging.”   

On Tuesday, the gas firm said it would not pay for Russian gas in rubles or use Gazprom’s proposed payment scheme for gas. In a statement, the company said negotiations over a long-term gas contract with Gazprom were in dispute, and it was taking Gazprom to arbitration to try and resolve the matter. 

Finland, along with Sweden, have submitted applications to become a part of NATO in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which sparked security concerns across the region. Russia's foreign ministry has warned that Russia “will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature" if Finland and Sweden join the alliance. Finland shares an 800-mile-long border with Russia.

Russia last week cut off electricity to Finland.

CNN's Robert North contributed reporting to this post.

7:45 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

An order has been given to "stop defending" Mariupol, says commander at Azovstal steel plant

From CNN's Roman Tymotsko and Tim Lister

An overview of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
An overview of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

The commander of the Azov Regiment, Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko, has issued a short video message from inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

Prokopenko said that the top military leadership had "issued an order to preserve the garrison soldiers' life and health and stop defending the city."

The message implies that those remaining at Azovstal are planning to leave the plant in the near future. There are thought to be several hundred fighters left inside the sprawling complex.

Azovstal was the last holdout in otherwise Russian-occupied Mariupol and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance under relentless Russian bombardment.

Prokopenko added: "Despite heavy fighting ... and lack of supplies, we constantly emphasized the three most important conditions for us: civilians, wounded, and dead. Civilians were evacuated.

The seriously wounded received the necessary assistance; they were evacuated with further exchange and delivery [planned] to the territory controlled by Ukraine."

The injured have been taken to a hospital in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

"As for the fallen heroes, the process is ongoing. But I hope that in the near future, families and all of Ukraine will be able to bury their soldiers with honors."

Some background: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal plant.

In remarks carried by Russian state media, Shoigu said: “The blocking of the Azovstal plant continues ... Nationalists are actively surrendering to captivity. At the moment, 1,908 people laid down their arms."

CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

6:09 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022

UK intelligence believes Russia has fired senior commanders who “performed poorly”

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London

A destroyed Russian tank in the village of Mala Rogan in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 16.
A destroyed Russian tank in the village of Mala Rogan in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 16. (Aziz Karimov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Russia has fired senior commanders who were considered to have “performed poorly” during the initial stages of the Ukraine invasion, an intelligence update by the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) said on Thursday.

“Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, who commanded the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv," the MOD said on Twitter.

Vice Admiral Igor Ospipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has also likely been suspended following the sinking of the cruiser Moskva in April."

Russian Chief of General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov “likely” remains in his post, but it's “unclear” whether he retains the confidence of President Vladimir Putin, the statement continued.

The British intelligence update also said that a culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is “probably prevalent” within the Russian military and security system.

“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational set-backs,” the statement said.

“This will likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors," it added.